By Rehan Iqbal
A bunion is a deformity of the great toe joint. Bunions are often caused by poorly fitted shoes. Shoes that constrict the toes and push them out of alignment (i.e. high heels and/or shoes with pointed toes) are the main culprits. Misalignment of the big toe causes inflammation and irritation in the soft tissues that surround the joint. Having the great toe out of alignment can also cause the foot to become tired, cramped, fatigued and overworked. This can cause damage to the muscles and tendons of the foot.
Are Poorly Fitted Shoes The Only Cause of Bunions?
More often than not, habitual wearing of shoes that are too tight, too high or those that have a pointed toe box are the cause of bunions. It is important to realize that having a genetic predisposition toward developing bunions is also a determining factor as to whether or not you will develop them. If your parents, grandparents or other close relatives had problems with bunions, poor arches, flat feet or loose ligaments and tendons in the feet, you probably will too. Luckily, even with this sort of genetic predisposition, you can mitigate damage to your feet by wearing comfortable, supportive shoes featuring a roomy toe box, good arch supports and professional orthotics as recommended by your podiatrist or physical therapist.
Officially, the answer to that question is “No!” Nonetheless, there are a number of people who claim to have cured their bunions using exercise, massage, properly fitted shoes, orthotics and treatments such as infrared heat. Since none of these treatments will hurt you, and all will help you combat pain, there is certainly no reason not to try them. Just remember that for any Do-It-Yourself (DIY) remedy to be effective, you must practice it consistently.
Here are Ten Easy Home Exercises to Get you Started
1. Go Barefooted On The Beach
If there is a clean beach nearby, try strolling along in the damp sand barefooted. This is a great way to get a natural foot massage and help your foot bones realign. Don’t do this if you have diabetes as you do not want to risk injuring your feet.
2. Pick Up A Rubber Ball Or Tennis Ball With Your Ankles
Use a medium sized ball (a child’s rubber ball or a tennis ball) to strengthen your ankles and stretch the tendons in your feet. Do this exercise in a standing position. Place the ball between your two ankles and squeeze. Lift your heels and stand on the balls of your feet, all the while maintaining balance. (Hold onto a sturdy piece of furniture or a counter top if you need to. ) Hold this pose for a slow count of ten and then gradually lower your heels. Rest for five seconds. Perform five repetitions.
3. Use A Ball To Massage Your Feet
You can use your tennis ball or rubber ball, or you can use something smaller such as a golf ball to give your feet a good massage. Just place the ball on the floor and roll your foot over it for as long as you like. It’s best to have two balls to massage both feet simultaneously. You can do this as long as often as you like for a minimum of five minutes a day.
4. Flex Your Toes
Any time you are standing, take the opportunity to stretch your toes by flexing them up and down. Challenge yourself by flexing all at once, flexing different combinations or attempting to flex the toes one at a time. Even if you are not successful, the attempt is good exercise. It loosens up your toe joints, stretches ligaments and tendons and strengthens the muscles in your ankles and legs.
5. Challenge Your Toes!
Try lifting your pinkie toe and great toe together. After you have strengthened and gained greater flexibility in your toes, challenge yourself by pressing your middle toes down into the floor and slowly raising your little toe and your big toe.
6. Try Big Toe Traction
When you are sitting, bathing or getting ready for bed, gently pull your big toe into proper alignment and hold it for about ten seconds. Release it and then repeat 4-6 times.
7. Point And Flex
While sitting or lying down, point all of your toes up and hold them in that position for five seconds. Next, curl them all under and squeeze tightly for five seconds. Repeat this exercise 10-12 times several times a day.
8. Strengthen Your Toes With Resistance
Use an elastic exercise band to strengthen your big toe. Loop the band around your toe and pull it toward you. Simultaneously, resist the pull by pushing your big toe down for five seconds. Rest for a few seconds and then repeat 10-12 times. This will make your toe muscles and the muscles in the sole of your foot stronger.
9. Towel Scrunch
Lay a small towel flat on the floor in front of you. While sitting, begin scrunching the towel toward you with your toes. Your goal is to wad it up into a ball using only your toes. This is harder than it sounds, and it may be a bit frustrating but you should do it for a minimum of five minutes, once a day.
10. Toe Dexterity
Gather together a can or cup full of marbles, dice and/or similar small objects (at least a dozen) and dump them out them on the floor in front of your chair. Set the can or cup down next to them. Challenge yourself by lifting them, one at a time with your toes and dropping them back into their container.
Practice Total Fitness
In addition to performing all of these exercises two or more times daily, take good care of your whole body. Wear properly fitted, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of protection and support for your feet. Your shoes should have a large toe box that allows for wiggle room all day long.
Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. If you are not in a lot of pain, take a daily walk to improve circulation and strengthen your entire body. If your feet hurt too much for this, take up swimming if possible to improve your overall health and fitness level.
Here are a couple of good video links that demonstrate some of the exercises described here, along with a few more.